USDA’s Farm Service Agency has historically supported America’s farmers, ranchers, and agricultural producers. We’ve added U.S. fishermen to our customer base with the Seafood Trade Relief Program, STRP, which has a signup deadline of January 15. According to Jeremy Cates, a fourth-generation lobster, scallop, and halibut fisherman in Cutler, Maine, the program “couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Challenges of the Fishing Industry
Jeremy is no stranger to the inherent challenges of the fishing industry. He bought his first boat at age 12 and genuinely enjoys the hard work of now owning his own fishery. “We are governed by tide, weather, and lobster biology – all of which can be highly unpredictable,” Jeremy explains. “We can’t plan on much during the fall run, except that we will be fishing.”
Fishermen around the nation have experienced a new challenge in recent years: retaliatory tariffs levied by foreign governments. Jeremy fishes in a portion of the ocean located on the United States boundary with Canada, with waters claimed by both countries. This proximity to another country has given him a unique firsthand view of how tariffs impact U.S. fishermen.
“Canadian fishermen set their traps all around mine, so we are literally fishing for the same product,” says Jeremy. “Yet when our lobsters go to market, the same lobster that is brought into a Canadian port sells for a higher price and to a more expansive and demanding market.”
This trend is seen across multiple seafood commodities, with U.S. fishermen losing markets and associated brand recognition. The ultimate result? A significant amount of money lost.
USDA’s Seafood Trade Relief Program
USDA is providing $530 million to support the U.S. seafood industry and fishermen affected by the tariffs through the Seafood Trade Relief Program. Like many fishermen, applying for STRP was Jeremy’s first experience working with USDA.
“With the pandemic, decreased catch, and decreased price due to tariffs, we relied on this money to bolster our operations,” he says. “The funds allowed me to increase pay to my three stern men who rely on me exclusively for income for their families in a year where they could really use it. It also allowed me to replace old gear and make other functional updates.”
Learn more about Jeremy’s experience with STRP in this two-minute video.